The Oakdale High School girls basketball team finally came out on the right side of a close game on Tuesday, defeating Tuscarora 40-36 in a defensive struggle that came down to the wire.
With a minute remaining, senior Taylor McGaughey hit a short jumper to give the Bears (6-5) a 38-36 lead over the Titans (7-4). With six seconds remaining, senior center Erica Buls made two foul shots to ice the game and give Oakdale its first league win of the year.
“We’ve been battling, and battling. ... You can use the term ‘getting over the hump,’ and tonight they did it. They earned it,” Oakdale coach Rob Healy said.
Added McGaughey: “It was pressure, but we haven’t won a game in a couple of weeks. So, we really wanted that.”
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bears — five of their losses have each come by single digits.
Meanwhile, Titans junior guard Shania Johnson became the first Tuscarora athlete to score 1,000 points after stealing an inbounds pass and taking it in for a breakaway layup late in the second quarter.
It was a fitting way for the playmaker to reach that landmark, but she struggled throughout the game. Johnson finished with a team-high 10 points.
Johnson had difficulty finishing at the rim and taking care of the basketball. Her game-tying attempt in the closing seconds bounced off the rim.
“Honestly, I will say this about her. She’s a fantastic player, but just how I was telling the rest of the girls, she has to relax,” Tuscarora coach Rob Turner said.
Oakdale guards Emma Bowman and Kayla Holman helped shut down Tuscarora’s leading scorer.
“She’s the best person I’ve ever guarded, by far. She’s so fast,” Bowman said. “I was just trying to keep her in front of me. She got past me a couple times, but I just had to keep my head up. I knew my team was there for me.”
The Titans fell behind 8-0 early in the first quarter, causing coach Turner to spend the Titans first timeout.
“Relax,” he said in the huddle as he stomped his foot. “Relax, relax,”
But they never did, Turner said.
“I think a lot of times when you get too emotional, I don’t think a lot of girls listen because they’re so emotional,” he said.
Senior guard Virginia Roby scored nine points for the Titans and tied the game at 36 with a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter before McGaughey’s game-winning shot. Junior Katherine Moore added eight points for Tuscarora.
Turner was an assistant coach on last year’s Oakdale team, but has helped lead the turnaround in Tuscarora. The Titans have already surpassed last year’s win total by four.
“It’s hard because we love him,” McGaughey said. “He’s a great coach, they’re lucky to have him.”
Oakdale hosts Middletown in a league game on Friday night and Tuscarora has a week off before its next game against Largo.
“Our county this year, it’s like the ACC. Everybody can beat everybody,” Healy said. “It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know if any team is going to win 18 games.”
Oakdale 40, Tuscarora 36
Oakdale 9 8 12 11—40
Tuscarora 5 14 7 10—36
Oakdale — Taylor McGaughey 12; Erica Buls 10; Rachel Walling 7; Emma Bowman 5; Natalie Galaviz 2; Kayla Holman 2; Olivia Spahr 2.
Tuscarora — Shania Johnson 10; Virginia Roby 9; Katherine Moore 8; Jayel Duvall 5; Kaylynn Evans 2; Lyric Forney 2.